How Anthropology Can Help Your Business Soar

The reason I love anthropology is because it teaches you to see, feel and think in new ways. These days, it’s no longer the strongest and smartest who will survive  it’s the ones who are the most adaptive. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the business world, as I describe in a recent article I wrote for Quick Base, which you can read here.

Corporate anthropologists, like myself, see the things that are really happening out there in the field, not what business leaders think is going on. We look for the deeper meaning in the interactions that make up people’s lives and the objects they surround themselves with. 

How corporate anthropology can help companies be more competitive

As I explain in my article, the Absolut Vodka story is a good example of how corporate anthropology can help a brand distinguish itself in the marketplace. To discover how people drink vodka (and other spirits), Absolut hired a research team to observe people drinking.

What they found was that what matters most to people are the stories that go along with the drinks. Researchers listened as people began sharing personal stories about certain brands of liquor playing a memorable role in their lives, such as during a vacation. Based on the information gathered from these observations, the researchers suggested innovative ways Absolut Vodka could become more memorable to consumers, and therefore their preferred brand.

5 ways to put anthropological practices into action

Here are 5 suggestions for putting the tools and methods of anthropology into action in your organization:

1. Get out of the office. Forget what you think is going on. People can’t tell you how they are using, or not using, your product or service. You have to discover this by observing them.

2. Feel the pain. 
If you’re observing customers, where are they running into frustrations? Are they unable to get answers from your customer service? Do they stay with you or leave? 

3. Walk the talk. 
If you really want to change your thinking, you’ve got to change yourself. Try shadowing your employees, watching them do their work. Then do those jobs yourself (think “Undercover Boss”).

4. Learn from others.
 If your product isn’t selling, find the people who are buying your competitor’s product and ask them why. How could you improve your solution so that it becomes a must-have?

5. Listen for the “what if.
” The “what if’s” in business reveal what customers want to see in the marketplace, if only someone would read their minds and build it. So get reading and then go create it!

To survive in business, you have to think about things in a new way. If you don’t, you’re going to become an archaeological ruin.

Want to know more about how corporate anthropology can help your business? Check out these 3 blogs.

If you’re ready for your company to thrive, give us a call.

At Simon Associates Management Consultants, we specialize in helping businesses that need or want to change. Please contact us for a $100 1-hour consultation to discuss how we might help your organization successfully adapt to today’s massive changes so you too can thrive, not just survive.


From Observation to Innovation,


Andi Simon, Ph.D.
Corporate Anthropologist | President
Simon Associates Management Consultants

Check out my latest Huffington Post article